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Triathlon transitions: how to transition quickly and efficiently

Triathlon transitions: a step-by-step guide on how to transition faster and more efficiently

Want stress-free, quick and fast triathlon transitions that will help set you up for a PB? Then read on for our expert guide

Credit: James Mitchell

Known by many as the fourth discipline of triathlon, transition can win or lose you a lot of time. Here, our experts share the tips and advice that will help you get through transition as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

T1: Swim-to-bike

1. Apply lube

Putting on your wetsuit can be quite stressful as the race start approaches. Apply lube to your arms and legs before the race to create a frictionless surface. This will enable the neoprene to glide on to your body with minimal effort. It will help as you enter the chaotic buzz of T1 too, as the water-repellent lube will also help the wetsuit slide off just as quickly as when you put it on.

2. Kick your legs into gear

In the last 200m of the swim, it’s time to get yourself ready for the run to T1. Increase the frequency of your leg kick as you approach the swim exit. This will encourage more blood to be pumped to your muscles and additional energy for your legs. Once you’ve scrambled out of the swim and are standing upright, your running legs will begin to kick in.

3. Be quick with the zip

In a tactical move, before the swim, attach the zip cord to the Velcro strap around the back of your neck. This
will make it easier to locate when running and prevent you from slowing down your stride. Out of the swim, unzip the wetsuit as soon as you’re into your running. Pull the cord to open up the back, so there’s one less job to do in transition.

4. Look for a good race line ahead

Choosing the best race line out of the swim exit can be tricky. It’s important to look up and find a clear visual path ahead in order to avoid any potential hazards, so remove your hat and goggles as soon as you begin the run. Make sure you concentrate on keeping hold of them until T1, though, as it can be all too easy to drop them while running.

5. Start to strip during the run to T1

It can feel heavy and tiring running with a wetsuit on. Prioritise getting as much of the suit off during the run to transition. With the zip unfastened, grab the collar and pull your arms through. The lube will work its magic and provide a slippery surface for the arms to come free. Once your upper body is out, tug the suit down towards your waist.

6. Get to know the transition flow

With T1 preparation achieved during the run to transition, the next move is getting to your bike as quickly as possible. Transitions are hectic places. This could make you feel disorientated when trying to find your bike. Familiarise yourself with the transition flow before the race to avoid confusion. Also, have your kit on show so you can spot it as you enter.

7. Learn the art of kicking off your suit

Slipping out of your wetsuit quickly with minimal effort is crucial to improving your race position. However, this discipline can often prove problematic. With fully lubricated legs, the wetsuit should peel off without any issues. An efficient method is to pull the suit down towards the bottom of the legs, stand on a section of the neoprene and kick the other foot out, setting it free.

8. Go slower with the second leg

Often, the other leg can cause some difficulty when getting out of the wetsuit. You may try and immediately kick the other leg free, like you did with the initial leg, but this can sometimes be ineffective. For speed, roll the wetsuit down past the ankle and pull the neoprene over the heel. From here, stand on the suit and kick your foot away.

9. Lay out your racing equipment in transition

Arrange your kit in a logical order when setting up in transition. This will save time and energy as you won’t be looking around for various pieces. Also, once you’ve taken off your wetsuit, goggles and hat, make sure they’re placed away from your racing equipment. This will help to avoid potential obstacles that could disrupt your race

10. Have your helmet at the ready

The helmet must be fastened before you leave transition. So it’s important to get it on, done up and secured as quickly as possible. Before the race, place it on the handlebars, with the cords opened and unlocked. Give yourself enough space in the helmet so it fits comfortably on your head without too much adjustment. This will help avoid any unnecessary time delays.

11. Fasten your shoes to the bike

Attaching your bike shoes to your bike is a great way to speed up transition. Use thin elastic bands to secure your shoes to the bike so they can snap easily when you begin pedalling. Also, ensure your shoes are fully open so your feet can slide in. And practise as much as you can, as getting on the bike and into your shoes quickly and safely is quite difficult.

12. Steady as you go

Don’t go too fast when running with your bike out of transition. You may lose control of the front wheel and it could veer off in another direction. Hold on to either the saddle or handlebars to guide it. Also, practise in training what side you prefer running on with your bike. This will help you feel more comfortable when running and give you greater control of the bike.

13. Practise the optimal bike mount

Mounting the bike is one of the hardest skills to acquire in triathlon. It’s not uncommon for it to go wrong and
you may trip up, lose speed or go in the wrong direction. The aim is to build up the pace, jump on as the bike crosses the mount line and carry the momentum into your cycling. This will accelerate the transition into your cycling race pace.

14. Start pedalling as soon as you’re on the bike

You’re safely on the bike, with your speed maintained and now the aim is to get your feet in the shoes and begin pedalling. If you’ve opted to put your bike shoes on instead, it’s important to clip in as soon as possible to avoid slowing down. Once you’re clipped in and your straps are fastened, take several powerful pedal strokes, hit race cadence and away you go!

15. Choose the right gear ratio at the start of your bike

Gear selection is often overlooked but essential in ensuring you get into your cycling as fast as possible. The wrong gear ratio can have a negative impact on your race, slowing you down, making it difficult to relax and disrupting your rhythm. Select a ratio that allows you to put the power down and increase your cadence without expelling too much energy.

T2: Bike-to-run

16. Take your feet out of your bike shoes

With 200m left of the bike course, it’s time to get ready to dismount. A time-saving tip is to skilfully take your feet out of your shoes, place them on top and continue cycling without slowing down. Ideally, you want to have quick-release shoes, which will make it easier to take your feet out and smoothly get back into your pedalling.

17. Perfect a confident dismount

Dismounting is just as, if not more, difficult as mounting the bike. The potential for things to go wrong is greater as you’ll now be sufficiently fatigued. When riding up to the dismount line, feather the brakes to control your speed. Confidently take one leg over the top tube, putting your weight on the remaining pedal, then step off the bike while carrying the momentum forward.

18. Use your bike to help you into the run

Running with the bike to transition can be an unforgiving experience. Trading your cycling legs for running ones can be a shock and could cause an awkward couple of strides. Relax, take control of the bike and the direction it needs to go into T2. Keep your cadence high as you run to rack the bike as this will help prepare your legs for the run section

19. Rack your bike with the nose of the saddle or the handlebars

When racking the bike, there’s usually a very small area in which to negotiate. This can be challenging as it’s easy to knock your kit over or barge into other athletes’ bikes.

Use the nose of your saddle to attach the bike to the pole. Or try using your handlebars to secure your bike on the rack. Both techniques work well and are just as effective.

20. Remove kit quickly and place it out of your way

Now the bike is racked, it’s time to get into run mode. Remove your helmet and sunglasses and put to one side where your wetsuit is. Taking the helmet off can be tricky as unlocking the straps could be fiddly, especially when you’re tired and feeling flustered. Place the helmet out of the way of your running line, so it doesn’t interfere when getting your shoes on.

21. Make your run shoes as easy as possible to slip on quickly

Getting your feet into your run shoes can be awkward, especially if the weather is cold and wet. Before the race, have the shoes fully undone with as much space as possible, so your feet can slide inside. If possible, swap your string laces for elastic laces. This will provide some added flexibility to the shoes and allow extra
give when getting them on your feet.

22. Not too fast – and step it up!

With your bike racked, run gear on and nutrition on standby, it’s time for the final discipline. You may have the bike phase still in your legs, so watch you don’t leave transition too fast or you may experience ‘jelly legs’. Focus on keeping your cadence high as this will promote blood flow to your legs and build into your race pace. Once settled, it’s time to chase that finish line!

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The 220 Triathlon team is made up of vastly experienced athletes, sports journalists, kit reviewers and coaches. In short, what we don't know about multisport frankly isn't worth knowing! Saying that, we love expanding our sporting knowledge and increasing our expertise in this phenomenal sport.

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